Pakistan Education Task Force-II: The country is producing unemployable graduates, fear experts

Participants agree the elites should pressurise the govt into taking action.

Express January 16, 2011

KARACHI: With the state of education in tatters, the country is producing unemployable graduates, education experts said at a meeting on Saturday.

The Pakistan Education Task Force-II met at the Pakistan Business Council to discuss education reforms in Sindh. The task force, headed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Sector Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Sir Michael Barber from the UK, is a national initiative to support the implementation of the new National Education Policy that was mandated by the prime minister in October, 2009, and supported by the UK government.

“Education is about politics,” said the experts present at the roundtable, pointing that education flourishes when “right policies” are in place. “If we have the right economic model and ideology only then can we set up a successful model of education,” said Ali.

Emphasising on the need to create a system, Dr Kaiser Bengali, an economist and adviser to Sindh chief minister, said that unless “we have the hardware — better pay and better teachers — no reform can be made”. He added that the primary responsibility of running the state should lie with the elites. “The elites should pressurise the government into taking action,” he said. Dr Bengali admitted that while there are some models of reform in the Punjab, there have hardly been any for Sindh. “In Sindh, unlike the Punjab, there are villages as small as five homes, which makes it very difficult for taking a community-level initiative for the province,” he said. According to the data that came up after the floods, only 3,000 of 13,000 villages, have more than 100 houses.

Zindagi Trust president Shehzad Roy emphasised that apart from giving education we need to upgrade the education being given to those already enrolled in schools.

The state of education is in a state of emergency in the country and needs to be treated as such, said The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF) Trust board member Mian Ahsan Saleem. “Enrolment depends on the quality of the school,” he said, explaining that more people will be attracted towards an improved system.

Saleem suggested that other schools follow the example of TCF and establish schools in the same community so people can first start accepting them as their own and then using these schools to bring social change.

Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas said that there needs to be continuity in education policies. “When a government changes, all effort falls apart,” he pointed out.

He proposed that a concise plan should be made taking all political parties on board and with a commitment to continuity.

Referring to the role of media in the initiative, he said, that the task force should give success stories to the media to trigger the movement of positive change.

Jang media group managing director Shahrukh Hasan said that the public sector should be made “effective and efficient”.

The participants also debated on the other areas of informal education, such as vocational training and madrassas.

What is Task Force-II?

Task force -II focuses on the Sindh Education Initiative (SEI) of Pakistan Education Task Force and it aims at increased enrolment, completion of school-level education and improvement in quality of education through incentives, open to both rural and urban areas of Sindh.

The SEI aims to get one million additional children into good, cost-effective private as well as public schools and improve their education standards.  Any type of school will be supported, provided it meets a set of criteria regarding school management, cost and quality. This initiative will also ensure that students, who attend schools but are inadequately resourced, complete their education up to class eight.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2011.

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